China has made a major shift in its forest policy from "lumber production-oriented" to one that focuses on ecological protection, said an official with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Tuesday.
Kevin Kamp, acting representative with the FAO mission in China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mongolia, said that China has achieved remarkable progress in forest protection.
Kamp made the remarks at a grand gathering here marking the 15th anniversary of the International Year of Forestry.
China's Agenda 21 and priority programs have greatly helped align the country's forestry sector with international practices since 1992, he added.
The FAO is happy to learn that a 10-year campaign to protect natural forests will be carried out in China's 17 provinces and regions with a special fund of US$11.6 billion from the government, he said. "And the plan to return farmland to forests and grassland will also play an important role in food security and environmental enhancement."
Approximately 47 million hectares of planted forests have survived in China so far, making the figure the largest in the world. Total forest areas now stand at 160 million hectares with a coverage rate of 16.55 percent.
The country regards the balance between ecological and economic functions of forests as the key to forest development, said Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Forestry Administration.
China plans to raise its forest coverage by 11.5 million hectares in the next five years, while the coverage rate is expected to hit 18.2 percent, he said.
The International Year of Forestry was launched in 1985 when international awareness of deforestation increased and a number of countries started long-term plans to protect forests in the past 15 years.